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The Jivamala
Rukmini Das
The life of a Warrior-Priest of Hanuman

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Section IX - Finding a Wife



The carved stone was not a statue but it looked venerable and old. It is good for a temple to look ancient - it means the gods have dwelt there for a long time, and they are unlikely to desert the place.

I placed the statue on the raised area for the altar, and below it was my image of the universe, with colors for the directions, and mantras both said and written at each corner. Beneath it was a picture of the Lord that I drew on a piece of cloth. This showed him to be lord of the universe, both below and above it. I gave him fruit and flowers, and burned incense before him, and offered food to him on a silver tray. I chanted his name, and thanked him for helping us. I asked him to send his life and breath into the semi-statue, and dwell there for us. I visualized his path, and chanted his name. I watched the carved stone until I could see it breathe with the god's breath.

Then he was our god, and we worshiped him each week in thanks. As his priest, I worshiped him each morning. He appeared sometimes, not playful like monkeys here but serious. He said that we must always be alert to defend our village, but that they (the invaders) would not come back for a year or so.

So we had time to return to normal life. My parents wanted me to marry, and though I liked life with the sadhus, life with a woman could be good as well. My parents lived on a small compound, but they recognized that a married man would need his own space, so they built me a set of rooms connected to theirs but with my own room for prayer and meditation. I also had room for my future wife - they did not insist we stay with them. Some neighbors thought this would spoil us, and that a mere boy did not deserve a separate space, and would be lonely away from his parents. But my father said that I was a warrior now, and it was not suitable for warriors to sleep with others.

I did not have any women in mind - I had been busy thinking of invaders, and the Monkey Lord. So my parents contacted the headman who contacted parents in the nearby villages. They had seen me in the fighting, and I made a good impression on several men. I [soon] had a small pile of offers for marriage.

I was uncertain what to do, so I called upon my Lord. He said, "Marry the women who worships me best." This made sense. I told my parent that I would meet with the girls, and find out which would make the best wife by asking questions. My mother thought this was not traditional, but my father agreed. He knew I had prayed about it.

I met a series of girls who all seemed nice enough, but nobody stood out. Then one girl came to meet me and said, "I would be proud to be the wife of one beloved by the Monkey Lord." The other girls were nervous and silent, but this one spoke her mind. She said, "I will worship him too if we marry." I was interested - she liked him too.

Section X - Marrying a Devotee

The girl was not the one my parents would have chosen - her skin was not light and she was thin. But her eyes were large and intense, and she was interested in my life. I liked this - even Bhai sometimes just tolerated me and my parents were nice but they didn't really know me or the Lord. Hanuman had become important in my life, and I wanted to share that with someone.

I told my parents that I had chosen her. My mother was not happy - her family was not wealthy, and she wasn't much interested in food and children. But my father was satisfied, because though she came from our caste, her father had spent some time learning the art of war, and he had knowledge of administration, having been a guard and later a treasurer in a large city. He had a reputation as an honorable man.

In our village, a husband would never call his wife by name, and she would never call him by name. I called her worshiper of the Monkey Lord, and she called me hero-priest. Those were good names for us.

Our [astrology] charts were harmonious, and we decided to marry. I would have liked to have asked her more questions beforehand as the Lord commanded, but my mother was outraged at the idea of unmarried people spending time together. She said that there would be enough time to talk after we were married. I suppose that she was right, and I did not speak with her until our marriage.

She came veiled, wearing gold necklaces and earrings, and came on a donkey (these were rare here). Her family came with gifts, and my family and my village fed them well for several days. There was music and dance, and it was pleasant, except that we could not eat, and had to listen to how marriage was a sacred commitment. Perhaps it was but it didn't have to be repeated so often.

At last it was over, and by the end we could finally eat. I didn't know how people were supposed to pay attention to the priest droning on while they were starving. I will do marriages as a priest, and mine will be really short and without so much repetition. If they want to eat, I won't notice.

Section XI - The Birth of a Son

So we married and spoke later, as my mother wished. She had ancestors who had worshiped hero-saints, and her father preferred warriors to teachers and priests. She liked the drama of war, the life and death situations, the colorful stories and brave heroes. But she did not like death or illness, and liked the stories of tragedy so long as they were kept at a distance.

I did not know much about laying with a women, so I went to speak with Bhai during the wedding. He thought marriage was a waste of time and energy, but I told him that I owed it to the ancestors, and he accepted that. He told me about what women expect from a man. I checked it with my new wife, and she said that he was wrong. I figured she knew better. Neither of us had much experience, but eventually we figured out how things worked.

Food was a problem, for my wife and mother cooked in different ways. She learned to cook in my mother's style, to please her, and made our snacks in her own way - I though they both tasted fine.

She was true to her word, and came to worship the Lord when I offered him incense, light, and flowers. I marked the stone in red and spoke to him in my mind. Usually he didn't answer. Sometimes other people came, and on holidays there were many people there. I had offering bowls for other gods too, and a big bowl for Rama.

A year went by, and people still came each week to practice warfare. The invaders were taking their time coming back. Meanwhile, my wife got pregnant which thrilled my mother. I thought it was nice but I didn't make that much money as a priest. The time went by - a year, a year and a half, then almost two years, and my wife had a boy. My mother forgave her for not being fat and fair when the child was born. I thought he could grow to be a priest or a warrior - he could choose, unlike me.

When he was a year old, they returned.


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